In The Naked Crowd, acclaimed author Jeffrey Rosen makes an impassioned argument about how to preserve freedom, privacy, and security in a post-9/11 world. How we use emerging technologies, he insists, will be crucial to the preservation of essential American ideals. In our zeal to catch terrorists and prevent future catastrophic events, we are going too far-largely because of irrational fears-and violating essential American freedoms. That's the contention at the center of this persuasive new polemic by Jeffrey Rosen, legal affairs editor of The New Republic, which builds on his award-winning book The Unwanted Gaze. Through wide-ranging reportage and cultural analysis, Rosen argues that it is possible to strike an effective and reasonable balance between liberty and security. Traveling from England to Silicon Valley, he offers a penetrating account of why well-designed laws and technologies have not always been adopted. Drawing on a broad range of sources-from the psychology of fear to the latest Code Orange alerts and airport security technologies-he also explores the reasons that the public, the legislatures, the courts, and technologists have made feel-good choices that give us the illusion of safety without actually making us safer.
Rosen (law, George Washington Univ.; The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America) feels that the 9/11 terrorist attacks have left Americans more willing to relinquish privacy and individualism in favor of a perceived sense of increased security against terrorist acts and other types of violence. He believes, however, that it is "possible, in theory, to design technologies and laws that protect both liberty and security." Rosen examines the issues surrounding airport screening devices, video surveillance, and universal database systems that store and share personal information among government agencies, as well as legal and judicial actions relating to security mechanisms. Finally, he looks at models for protecting liberty while providing security and argues that a model using political oversight will offer the best hope of securing liberty while protecting from terrorists. This book is largely theoretical, but thorough documentation shows that Rosen draws on historical and legal sources as well as recent sociological and political scholarship to support his theories. Recommended for legal studies and political science collections in academic and large public libraries.-Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 10, 2005
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Excerpt from The Naked Crowd by Jeffrey Rosen
A Cautionary Tale
A week after the attacks of 9/11, as most ameri- can stocks plummeted, a few companies, with products particularly well suited for a new and anxious age, soared in value. One of the fastest-growing stocks was Visionics, whose price more than tripled. The New Jersey company is an industry leader in the fledgling science of biometrics, a method of identifying people by scanning and quantifying their unique physical characteristics ' their facial structures, for example, or their retinal patterns. Visionics manufactures a face-recognition technology called FaceIt, which creates identification codes for individuals based on eighty unique aspects of their facial structures, like the width of the nose and the location of the temples. FaceIt can instantly compare an image of any individual ' s face with a database of the faces of suspected terrorists, or anyone else.
Visionics was quick to understand that the terrorist attacks represented not only a tragedy but also a business opportunity. On the afternoon of 9/11, the company sent out an e-mail message to reporters, announcing that its founder and CEO, Joseph Atick, ' has been speaking worldwide about the need for bio- metric systems to catch known terrorists and wanted criminals. ' On September 20, Atick testified before a special government committee appointed by the secretary of transportation. Atick ' s message ' that security in airports and embassies could be improved using face-recognition technology as part of a comprehensive national surveillance plan that he called Operation Noble Shield ' was greeted enthusiastically by members of the committee. To identify terrorists concealed in the crowd, Atick proposed to wire up Reagan National Airport in Washington and other vulnerable airports throughout the country with more than 300 cameras each. Cameras would scan the faces of passengers standing in line, and biometric technology would be used to analyze their faces and make sure they were not on an international terrorist watch list. More cameras unobtrusively installed throughout the airport could identify passengers as they walked through metal detectors and public areas. And a final scan could ensure that no suspected terrorist boarded a plane. ' We have created a biometric network platform that turns every camera into a Web browser submitting images to a database in Washington, querying for matches, ' Atick said. ' If a match occurs, it will set off an alarm in Washington, and someone will make a decision to wire the image to marshals at the airport. '
Of course, protecting airports is only one aspect of homeland security: A terrorist could be lurking on any corner in America. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Howard Safir, the former New York police commissioner, recommended the installation of 100 biometric surveillance cameras in Times Square to scan the faces of pedestrians and compare them with a database of suspected terrorists. Atick told me that since the attacks, he has been approached by local and federal authorities from across the country about the possibility of installing biometric surveillance cameras in stadiums and subway systems and near national monuments. ' The Office of Homeland Security might be the overall umbrella that will coordinate with local police forces ' to install cameras linked to a biometric network throughout American cities, Atick suggested. ' How can we be alerted when someone is entering the subway How can we be sure when someone is entering Madison Square Garden How can we protect monuments We need to create an invisible fence, an invisible shield. '